The 2018 legislative session is over, now comes the spin

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton leaves the Cabinet Room.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton leaves the Cabinet Room inside the Minnesota State Capitol after a meeting with Republican leadership in St. Paul, Minn. on Friday, May 18, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

State lawmakers scattered Monday to their hometowns around Minnesota. Their session is over, but the fate of their work remains a question mark. Gov. Mark Dayton has two weeks to decide what he'll sign or veto.

In the meantime, the battle over the narrative of the session is just beginning.

You'll hear a lot of this from Minnesota Republicans in coming days. Here's House Speaker Kurt Daudt:

"This was a long legislative session where we accomplished some really important things. And today begins the pressure on our governor to do what's right and sign these bills."

Republican lawmakers take questions during a press conference.
Republican lawmakers take questions during a press conference inside the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. on Sunday, May 20, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

And you'll hear a lot of this from Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman:

"The reason why this legislative session will wind up in a heap of ashes, likely, is because of the Republicans' decision to put everything in the last week and to not engage in any meaningful compromise with the governor."

Three months of often plodding work gave way over the weekend to a sprint to the finish.

In less than a day, the Legislature passed a new tax bill that also freed up extra money for schools. They powered through an expansive spending bill using part of the state's surplus. They authorized $1.5 billion in public construction projects. And they moved to stabilize public pension funds.

The last two are likely to find support from Dayton. The tax and spending bills are at risk of vetoes.

Republicans went into full lobby mode the day after adjournment. They brought out regular Minnesotans who have much to gain — or lose — depending on how it all shakes out.

Kent Edwards was there on behalf of his mother, who died last year in a senior care center. Edwards says the budget bill includes vital accountability measures around elder abuse.

"Not everything we want and need is in this bill. But it's a start and a start in the right direction," Edwards said.

Dayton says he has problems with how that provision and several others in the 990-page bill are structured.

The governor began the week in Washington for a conference, but when he returns he intends to travel around Minnesota to make his case for how the session went.

Sunday night, he had few kind things to say. Dayton accused GOP lawmakers of bowing to special interests in the bills they passed.

"The big drug companies, the big multinational corporations, the NRA, the nursing home chains — everybody who has something that they want for next fall. And the people of Minnesota have been left out in the cold as a result. And it's shameful."

Republicans say they're not convinced Dayton will follow through on his veto threats. Daudt urged Dayton to take time to read through the bills before issuing vetoes.

"Obviously the governor was never going to get everything he wanted. This is about compromise," Daudt said.

If the tax bill goes down, that could mean higher taxes for many people because of how the new federal tax code is structured, and it would complicate state tax filing. Schools would also miss out on $225 million in new or repurposed aid designed to prevent teacher layoffs.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said there's less money for schools in the bill than meets the eye, and more tax cuts for businesses than Republicans are letting on. He said Dayton could veto the tax bill and consider calling lawmakers back into special session after November's election to pass a new one.

"Knowing after the November forecast and after the November election that we actually have the money," he said. "Come in for a one-day special session, maybe the first week of December to pass a tax conformity bill."

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